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Do ankle weights affect teen growth?

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Ankle weight is an exercise accessory worn in close proximity to the growth plates above the ankles. Depending on how you use them, ankle weights are effective for building muscles and performing cardio. However, it is not without drawbacks. Ankle weights can increase your risk of injury that may lead to a growth plate fracture, which can affect your growth. Wearing ankle weights will not stunt your growth, but how you use them may increase or decrease the risk of stunted growth.

Growth Plate Fractures

The growth plates are areas of growing tissue in children and adolescents, located at the ends of the long bones. By the end of puberty -- and sometimes earlier -- the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. Overusing your growth plates can cause stress and trauma to your joints, which may lead to fractures. Playing competitive sports adds stress to the joints, which makes young athletes more susceptible to growth rate fractures compared to people who don’t practice sports. Extreme cold injury, such as frostbite, bone infection, car accidents, fall, neurological disorder, genetics, medications and radiation, kidney failure and other metabolic diseases may also cause growth rate injuries.

How Ankle Weights Help Growth

In 2002, researchers from the Department of Exercise and Sport Science from University of North Carolina-Greensboro found that doing resistance exercises, such as using ankle weights can help in growth. Using ankle weights in exercising triggers bone calcification and osteoblastic activities that secrete growth hormones. These activities strengthen the bones and make bones denser. With continuous exercise and secretion of growth hormones, the bones will grow and become stronger.

Growth Plate Fracture Risk

When a growth plate injuries are often fractures to the growing tissue. Depending on the severity of the fracture, these may lead to stunted growth. According to National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 85 percent of growth plate injuries heal without any long-lasting effect on growth. With growth plate injuries that require surgery, there are cases when the bones will grow unevenly, which can lead to crooked or misshapen legs later in life.

Best Course of Action

Use ankle weight that are between 1 to 3 pounds for cardiovascular benefits and discontinue use if you experience pain, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Alternatively, ACE recommends you wear a weight vest, which is less likely to cause joint pain. Always start your exercise by warming up to help prevent injury. When performing strength-training exercises aim for 15 to 20 reps in two or thee sets. Exercising regularly in a controlled environment will help stimulate your growth hormones.

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